Human Suffering

Dr Satinover: I think the topic that people find most difficult to accept is human suffering. On the one hand, suffering motivates people to search for spirituality. On the other hand, it is very hard to accept suffering. How does Kabbalah relate to this question?

Rav Laitman: This is indeed a question that troubles everyone. On the one hand, we are speaking of a benevolent Upper Force, but if it is "Upper," it means it is better than us. Yet our world is filled with anguish and torment. Do anguish and torment also come from this Force? Is there more than one Force, and if so, are they at war with each other?

Satinover: I am referring not only to the philosophical question of the nature of suffering, but also to the practical aspect.

Laitman: Reality is made of our desire to enjoy and the pleasure that motivates this desire to operate. These are the only two components on all levels of reality—the pleasure and the desire to receive pleasure. In Kabbalistic terms we call them "the Light and the Kli (vessel)."

When pleasure is absent, it creates a sensation of a desire to enjoy. But sometimes the deficiency of pleasure is so intense that it creates a sensation of suffering. Because everything is made of a certain measure and quality of a desire to receive pleasure, everything also suffers when it is absent—minerals, plants, animals, and people.

In fact, suffering is a necessary sensation that impels a creature to leave its present state and move on to the next. Without suffering, there is no motion. In fact, motion means that my present state is unsatisfactory, so I decide that I will be better off in a different state. Suffering enables us to make the necessary effort to move toward a situation that seems better. Hence, without suffering, progress is impossible.

The Upper Force has no other way of promoting us to better states except through suffering. If it created us as egoists with a desire to indulge in pleasure, then the only way it can move us from one state to the next is through a sensation of suffering.

However, we still need to explain why there is so much more suffering today than before. The purpose of Creation is for humankind to reach the highest degree in reality.

The only way to approach that goal is with an immense drive to reach it, or phrased differently—from the greatest suffering. This does not necessarily relate to physical suffering. We seemingly have everything today, yet we feel that something is missing, and that sensation of absence is the greatest degree of suffering.

To advance, to exit the boundaries of this world and begin to search for something higher, we must suffer. We must feel suf fering at the deepest level so that we can demand the correspondingly highest state. That sublime state of being that stands vis-à-vis this world is the spiritual world; hence the suffering, too, must be spiritual, not physical.

In spiritual suffering, one does not suffer from absence of mundane fulfillments. While mundane fulfillments exist, they do not provide a sensation of livelihood, or even a sensation of being alive. Those who specifically regret a lack of "feeling alive" will have the strength to ask for something beyond this life.

For this reason, we are not going to see a satisfied humankind in the near future. On the contrary, suffering will intensify and will take on a more spiritual form. The sensation of absence of spiritual fulfillment will overshadow any physical abundance. There will be nothing satisfying and nothing joyful for us. Depression will spread throughout the world and the sensation of distress will not let us live our lives in peace.

The result of this distress will be an increase in conflicts, terror, outbreaks of diverse psychological and psychiatric problems. These things will happen specifically with the material abundance in the background, showing us that what we lack in our world is not material sustenance, but the sensation of living. This is how Kabbalah explains the process that lies ahead.

The way to meet this challenge is to utilize Kabbalah to understand the source of suffering. This will sweeten the suffering, since we will see that there is a reason for it. This will allow us to begin the correction before we plunge into affliction. This is why we are working so hard to prevent, rather than to cure, and prevention means letting humanity become aware of the wisdom of Kabbalah before it plummets into deep depression.

Perhaps it will be easier to come to terms with Kabbalah's concept and purpose of suffering if we understand its perspective on death in general. Here's what Kabbalah says about death: We are all individual parts of one spiritual Kli, called Adam ha Rishon (The First Man). The soul of Adam ha Rishon was split into billions of souls that came down to this world. This world occupies myriad bodies, each with its own soul. The goal is for each person to return to the same root in Adam ha Rishon from which he or she came down.

When we first come into this world, our souls are but a "point." If we do not build a spiritual Kli out of this point while living in this world, our souls return to their roots in Adam ha Rishon like seeds that did not evolve, unconscious, lifeless points. To put it differently, we do not feel our own existence until our souls dress a new body in this world.

However, if we cultivate this point through the altruistic intention until it becomes a spiritual Kli, that Kli will remain after the demise of our physical bodies, since we've begun to feel the Upper Force while living in this world. This connection remains, since it is not a part of our biological body.

The spiritual Kli perceives what is outside of us, regardless of our natural sensory perceptions. Once we are outside ourselves, physical life and death do not affect how the soul perceives. Therefore, we don't feel life and death in this world so intensely, since spiritual sensations remain intact. Put more accurately, eventually we must transcend this biological alternation between life and death to the point that we are not affected by it whatsoever.

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